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Regulators to consider Duke request to make customers pay more

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State utility regulators refused Monday to let Duke Energy Florida add $4.70 to customers’ bills effective on July 1 to cover rising fuel costs.

The Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities, voted instead to make the utility wait until this fall to propose a fuel-cost adjustment. Any increase would begin to take effect July 1 next year.

That could mean a steeper increase next July 1, when a separate $4.25 rate increase, tied to the coming online of a new natural gas-fired generating plant in Citrus County, takes effect. The utility plans to retire one of its coal-burning generators.

The delay would allow a truer picture of Duke’s actual fuel costs for the year, the commissioners reasoned.

“(Duke) wanted to smooth it out, and the commission said, No, we’d rather just look at it all in the upcoming hearing in the fall, and see it there are offsets. And maybe we can look at your projections and see whether you are projecting something wrong,” Deputy Public Charles Rehwinkel said.

The commission’s staff had recommended approval of the “mid-course correction,” which would have increased an average monthly residential bill by about $6, calling it “reasonable.”

Duke’s “most current” projection of its fuel costs for 2017 was projected to be $1.3 billion, an “under-recovery” of nearly 13.6 percent, its filing says.

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